Occupy 2.0

Until this past weekend, the Occupy Movement was flying under the radar, percolating beyond public view.  But members returned to Zucotti Park on St. Pat’s Day to celebrate the Movement’s six-month anniversary.  From on the ground reports, the demonstration was peaceful.  Until the NYPD arrived.  Then there was trouble—a number of arrests and one woman reportedly had a seizure after she was thrown to the ground and handcuffed.  Several participants said it took 17 minutes for the police to react, after which an ambulance was called.

For naysayers, the Occupy Wall St. Movement [OWS], their members and reasons for being were summarily dismissed before they began.  Who is the leader of this motley group? journalists and pundits asked repeatedly.  What do these people want?

Surprisingly, there is a leader or so I’ve read, someone well known to Occupy organizers but deliberately kept out of public view.  As far as what they want?  The answer seemed perfectly clear to me at the start because I think it’s what most Americans want or if they don’t want it, they expect it: an end to the gross inequality in the country, for which Wall St. and Government collusion holds the lion’s share of responsibility and an end to ‘bought’ elections, where the 1% and corporate interests routinely choose our leaders, shape policy and control the message, known in polite circles as ‘perception management.’

All of this transcends parties, btw.  We’re talking Republican and Democratic parties alike, regardless of how many times we enter the ‘lesser than two evils’ spin.

You don’t need to be a psychic to ‘get’ the OWS message.  You don’t even need to be a member of Occupy.  All that’s needed is a modicum of alertness, a shaking-off of the trance-inducing distraction and deflection of pundits, media hounds and political operators.

So, what has OWS managed to accomplish, thus far?   According to the critics—not a damn thing.  But is that really the case?

Last summer, the headlines were ripe with talk of deficits, crushing debt and woe is me.  We need a Grand Bargain, wisemen crooned [translation: we need to cut public services].  Somehow, we always have money for foreign adventures, national security, weapons and surveillance equipment.  For instance, how many drones will be in American skies by 2020?  Hummm.  Try 30,000.  That’s the Federal Aviation Administration’s rough estimate.  The ever popular ‘shop ‘til you drop’ hee-haw isn’t working either, even with the news that ‘average’ Americans are flocking back to restaurant dining. Despite a stumbling economy there is money for weapons and drones and assorted homeland security gear.  When it comes to education, infrastructure, home mortgage write downs, decent healthcare, aide to our poor, disabled and elderly?  We’re just stone-broke and need to be put on an austerity diet. See Paul Ryan’s reiteration on social program slashes and numbers that don’t add up.  It’s a nice set piece that will contrast with the soon-to-come kinder and gentler Democratic version.

One could call the dialogue change a bizarre coincidence but public conversation pivoted after Occupy came on the scene.  We went from Oooooo, we need to slash Medicare, Medicaid and refigure Social Security to why is Wall St. getting bailed out on the backs of the taxpayer?  Why do we have a system where the profits go to the top income bracket, while risk is carried by Main Street?  Why have the wages of middle-class workers[if they’re fortunate enough to still have a job] barely kept pace with inflation, while the top 1% has had a 275% increase in income?

Uncomfortable questions, the sort that make politicians squirm.

OWS has also focused attention on home foreclosures, working with foreclosed families to save their homes.  The Movement rallied the public in a Change Your Bank Day strategy that is estimated to cost TBTFs a $185 billion in transfers to community banks and credit unions.  Religious organizations have joined the effort.  According to Think Progress, The New Bottom Line, a coalition of faith groups has pledged to remove $1 billion from the major banks this year alone.  OWS also pushed against the ATM fee-increase proposal; the banks pulled back.  In late February, Occupy the SEC submitted a 300+ page document, urging regulators to resist the financial sector’s desire to water down the Volker Rule, part of the Dodd-Frank Wall St. reform.  The group that put the document together was comprised of former Wall St. workers.  OWS members also stood with private landowners, Tea Party members and environmentalists protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that the President has expressed a new-found love for.

Not too shabby for six months activism.  Yet still the critics howl.  Where is the direction, what are the goals?

The Movement is young and still developing but you cannot fault it for sitting on its hands.  More importantly, the Occupy spirit is global in nature because many activists are ‘graduates without a future’—young, educated and fed up.  Paul Mason documented this facet of the worldwide

Arundhati Roy

social/political movements in his book, “Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere,”  and Arundhati Roy wrote this in a recent essay: “Capitalism, A Ghost Story”:

As Gush-Up concentrates wealth on to the tip of a shining pin on which our billionaires pirouette, tidal waves of money crash through the institutions of democracy—the courts, Parliament as well as the media, seriously compromising their ability to function in the ways they are meant to. The noisier the carnival around elections, the less sure we are that democracy really exists.

Sound familiar?  The neoliberal model, the gross inequality that rewards the few at the expense of the many has circled the globe, creating universal discontent and misery.

So, what’s coming up for 2012?  What will Occupy 2.0 look like?

I’d suggest checking the OWS page here for an updated list of scheduled actions.  OWS plans to be in Chicago in mid-May to protest the NATO Summit although the city is throwing up barriers to prevent demonstrations.  Somehow, I don’t think the protest will be stopped.

May 1 will be a National Action, the day traditionally known as International Worker’s Day.  This year OWS is calling for a General Strike across the country.  From the Occupy site:

We are calling on everyone who supports the cause of economic justice and true democracy to take part: No Work, No School, No Housework, No Shopping, No Banking – and most importantly, TAKE THE STREETS!

This Saturday, March 24, a Disrupt Dirty Power protest has been called in NYC to jumpstart a month-long action until Earth Day, April 22.  More information here.

Sunday, March 25, Occupy Town Square IV will focus on public parks and other public spaces in NYC.  More info here.

If you’re interested in local actions in particular states, towns, cities or countries, info can be found at the Occupy Together site here.

And if you want to eliminate the idea of ‘a failed movement’ from your brain. Check out the participation map here.  The scope is massive.

The essay I mentioned by Arundhati Roy is well worth a read—highly informative, even shocking about vulture capitalism’s impact on India.  Be prepared, it’s long.  As Roy moves into her concluding paragraphs, she writes this:

Capitalism is in crisis. Trickledown failed. Now Gush-Up is in trouble too. The international financial meltdown is closing in. India’s growth rate has plummeted to 6.9 per cent. Foreign investment is pulling out. Major international corporations are sitting on huge piles of money, not sure where to invest it, not sure how the financial crisis will play out. This is a major, structural crack in the juggernaut of global capital.

Capitalism’s real “grave-diggers” may end up being its own delusional Cardinals, who have turned ideology into faith. Despite their strategic brilliance, they seem to have trouble grasping a simple fact: Capitalism is destroying the planet. The two old tricks that dug it out of past crises—War and Shopping—simply will not work.

Disaster capitalism has certainly lived up to its name, be it continuous war, environmental degradation or exploding poverty.  What is Occupy about?  Speaking for myself, Occupy is about a break of faith with a global economic system that serves no one but an elite minority, where infinite money and power is the only morality.  The movement is a massive rejection of the ongoing mantra: there’s no other way.  Occupy challenges that static position, calls on us to envision something else, something better than the consensus mind.  It dares us to shake off the old and embrace a sense of possibility.  It demands we wake up, now.

Troy Davis: Clemency Denied

I just got an e-mail from Amnesty International, and I’m copying it here:

It is with a very heavy heart and a deep sense of outrage that I let you know that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to deny clemency to Troy Davis.

This means that very little is standing in the way of the state of Georgia executing a potentially innocent man this Wednesday, September 21 st at 7pm.

The actions of the Board are astounding in the face of so much doubt in the case against Troy Davis. However, we are not prepared to accept the decision and let anyone with the power to stop the execution off the hook.

Join us in calling on the Board to reconsider its decision, and on the Chatham County (Savannah) District Attorney Larry Chisolm to do the right thing. They have until the final moments before Troy’s scheduled execution to put the brakes on this runaway justice system.

We have seen an unprecedented level of support from our members, coalition partners and all sorts of concerned individuals across the political spectrum.

I was blown away as I carried one of the many boxes containing your petition signatures up to the Parole Board office last Thursday. Close to a million signatures have been collected from the many organizations working with us. I looked back as we were marching down Auburn Avenue in Atlanta Friday night and I could not see an end to the crowd. About 3,500 people came out!

The movement here is very alive. It is electric. And I have no doubt that we will raise the volume together against what could be an unthinkable injustice.

Join your voices with us – we will not allow Troy Davis to be executed, not in our names! Troy Davis and his family have counted on us for many years now and we will not let them down. Please take action – human rights and a human life are on the line. Please contact Georgia’s District Attorney and urge him to stop the execution of Troy Davis.

Make the state of Georgia hear you! Tell them that executing Troy Davis will only deepen the cycle of violence and injustice.

In Solidarity,
Laura Moye
Director, Death Penalty Abolition Campaign
Amnesty International USA

P.S. We’ll be organizing a Day of Protest today to express our outrage at the recent decision to deny Troy Davis clemency. And on Wednesday (Sept. 21), we’re calling for a Day of Vigil on Troy’s impending execution date. If you are able to organize locally for either of these events, please tell us about your plans.

Minkoff Minx is very passionate about the Troy Davis case, and has written several excellent posts about it. She’s involved in family business today, but perhaps she will still find time to comment on this terrible decision.

From the Guardian:

Davis, 42, was put on death row 20 years ago for the 1989 murder of a police officer, Mark MacPhail, in Savannah following a fight with a homeless man over a bottle of beer. Since then seven out of the nine key witnesses who implicated him have recanted their evidence, several saying they were cajoled by police into giving false eye-witness statements.

Another 10 have come forward to point the finger at a separate man present at the scene of the murder, Sylvester Coles.

Meanwhile, no forensic or DNA evidence linking Davis to the shooting has ever been found, and nor has the murder weapon.

The denial of clemency by the parole board prompted an outpouring of anger and despair from hundreds of Twitter users and several celebrity supporters of Davis’s campaign. The prisoner’s lawyer, Brian Kammer, said he was “shocked and disappointed at the failure of our justice system at all levels to correct a miscarriage of justice”.

Amnesty International’s US branch, that has championed the case, said: “Allowing a man to be sent to death under an enormous cloud of doubt about his guilt is an outrageous affront to justice. The case against Davis unraveled long ago.”

Bradley Manning Could Face Death Penalty

Bradley Manning

Remember when the U.S. was a civilized country? Or am I dreaming? Were we ever a civilized country? Are we really supposed to believe that this guy in the White House is a Democrat? This latest outrage is way beyond the pale, as far as I’m concerned:

Sara Sorcher at The National Journal

The U.S. Army today charged Pfc. Bradley Manning with 22 additional offenses related to the release of classified documents to WikiLeaks, including “aiding the enemy,” traditionally a capital offense. But in a release announcing the new charges, the Army said it would not be recommending the death penalty.

The charges, announced after what the Army said was a seven-month investigation, also included wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet where it could be accessed by “the enemy,” theft of public records, transmitting defense information, and fraud in connection with computers. The new counts included five violations of Army regulations as well, the Army release said. During this time Manning has been held in solitary confinement at the Marine Corps Base brig at Quantico, Va.

They won’t recommend the death penalty? I’m not sure why we should believe anything our government tells us anymore. And just who is this “enemy” that Manning supposedly “aided” by releasing a video of war crimes and supposedly leaking diplomatic cables? That is still a mystery, because the army won’t say.

In its Twitter feed, WikiLeaks said the charge of aiding the enemy was “a vindictive attack on Manning for exercising his right to silence. No evidence of any such thing.” It also said the charge suggested that “WikiLeaks would be defined as ‘the enemy.’ A serious abuse.”

Military officials did not respond to a question on Wednesday about who the “enemy” was. The charge sheet, however, accuses the private of giving intelligence to the enemy “through indirect means,” which could suggest that prosecutors are referring to Afghan and Iraqi insurgents rather than to WikiLeaks.

Does anyone think the Afghan and Iraqi insurgents were surprised to learn that U.S. Soldiers have killed innocent civilians in their countries? I’m not sure what they are supposed to get out of the diplomatic cables. I doubt if any of them would be surprised to learn that the Bush administration lied in order to start a war in Iraq.

The Guardian tries and fails to decipher the “aiding the enemy” charge:

The charge involves “giving intelligence to the enemy”, which is defined as “organised opposing forces in time of war but also other hostile body that our forces may be opposing such as a rebellious mob or a band of renegades”. Such an enemy could be civilian or military in nature.

The charge sheet, like the original set of accusations, contains no mention by name of the enemy to which the US military is referring.

It could be WikiLeaks itself, which the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, has accused of launching an “attack on America”. Or it could be a reference to enemy forces in Afghanistan.

A report by NBC News said Pentagon officials emphasised that some WikiLeaks material contained names of informants and others working with US forces whose lives could have been put in danger.

That’s bullsh&t, IMHO. I hope they’re ready to present evidence of harm that actually took place as a result of the release of the diplomatic cables.

At FDL, Jane Hamsher has published a statement from Manning’s friend and supporter David House along with a petition to tell Robert Gates to drop the “aiding the enemy” charges. Here is House’s statement:

Through WikiLeaks we have been given direct evidence that the White House openly lies to congress and the American people in order to achieve political ends. Richard Nixon, in an attempt to stifle government transparency, once called Ellsberg “the most dangerous man in America” and accused him of “providing aid and comfort to the enemy.” Today we see the Obama administration continuing the legacy Nixon started by declaring whistleblowers as enemies of the state. It is a sad and dangerous day for transparency advocates everywhere.

President Obama should be ashamed, but I’m not sure he has the capacity for that–or to feel empathy for this young man who has already spent months in prison under conditions tantamount to torture.

Citizens United and Clarence Thomas Go Way Back

Clarence and Virginia Thomas

Thanks to the way-back machine, researchers at the watchdog organization “Protect Our Elections” dug up this 1991 article from Time Magazine.

Washington-area television viewers were startled last week to see three familiar senatorial faces pop up on their screens above the words WHO WILL JUDGE THE JUDGE? The follow-up question — “How many of these liberal Democrats could themselves pass ethical scrutiny?” — was hardly necessary, since the faces were those of Edward Kennedy, Joseph Biden and Alan Cranston, all scarred veterans of highly publicized scandals, from Chappaquiddick to plagiarized speeches to the Keating Five.

The ad, produced by two independent right-wing groups, was intended to bolster Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas’ confirmation chances by pointing the finger at three liberal Democrats who seemed likely to oppose him. Not coincidentally, the ad was produced by the same people who launched the 1988 Willie Horton spot….

President George H.W. Bush, his chief of staff John Sununu, and Clarence Thomas himself denounced the ads and demanded they be pulled. But the sponsors of the ads kept right on running them.

Can you guess who paid $100,000 for those ads in support of Thomas’ nomination to SCOTUS?

Read the rest of this entry »

The Anti-War Movement is starting to Move Again

My partner and I were going to a social function last Saturday, leaving our sodden and flooded farm for a few hours and driving through the gloom of a raging downpour.  On the corner outside our little town was the sign guy.  This gentleman appears at odd intervals with a huge sign constructed of two by fours and signboard.  The sign asks why the wars haven’t stopped.

The sign guy was standing there, holding up his sign from time to time, absolutely drenched.  I said as we turned past, “Next time we see him we’ve got to stop.”


“So, I can find out when he’s going to be out next and go stand with him.”

“Oh, good idea!”  I waved and gave a thumbs up as we passed the sign guy, and my partner honked the car horn in approval.

More people than the sign guy remember that we are still involved in two very expensive, very costly, very murderous wars.  All of us here know it, and people across the country and the ‘net are starting to wake up again.  Obama isn’t going to change a thing, he’s not really anti-war, and it’s time to start protesting… again.

There’s going to be an anti-war protest on Dec 16th in Lafayette park in front of the White House at 10 am.  There will be military veterans and leaders of the peace movement giving speeches.  I doubt the protest’ll be very big, and I don’t think it’ll get any media attention, but it’ll have happened, and, as Chris Hedges says in his Op-Ed on Truth-out this week, ‘No Act of Rebellion is Wasted‘:.

Hedges’ first paragraph got me choked up, I have to admit.  He says,

I stood with hundreds of thousands of rebellious Czechoslovakians in 1989 on a cold winter night in Prague’s Wenceslas Square as the singer Marta Kubišová approached the balcony of the Melantrich building. Kubišová had been banished from the airwaves in 1968 after the Soviet invasion for her anthem of defiance, “Prayer for Marta.” Her entire catalog, including more than 200 singles, had been confiscated and destroyed by the state. She had disappeared from public view. Her voice that night suddenly flooded the square. Pressing around me were throngs of students, most of whom had not been born when she vanished. They began to sing the words of the anthem. There were tears running down their faces. It was then that I understood the power of rebellion.

He goes on to talk about the professors of languages who rebelled in 68 and who were sent to Bohemia to work on the road crews laying tar and grading road beds.

And as they worked they dedicated each day to one of the languages in which they all were fluent – Latin, Greek, Italian, French, Spanish or German. They argued and fought over their interpretations of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Goethe, Proust and Cervantes. They remained intellectually and morally alive.

For a history, language and archaeology geek like me, these words are above inspiring.  But go read the rest of the article, and get ready to protest even in the smallest of ways.  Because that is what has to happen.

For more information on the December 16th protest, see the website www.stopthesewars.org.  I will try to find something local going on that day or at least send a few dollars their way.  Maybe the sign guy will be out and I can join him.